Mike the Mad Biologist

Oldest Bug EVAH! Discovered

fossil
(Jodi Hilton/Tufts University)

In North Attleborough, MA, paleontologists have discovered the oldest insect fossil:

The exquisitely-detailed fossil has been identified as the imprint left 310 million years ago by a primitive mayfly that lighted briefly on a muddy outcropping in what was then a steamy Carboniferous Period flood plain.

That fleeting moment in the life of a creature that probably lived no longer than 24 hours was captured for eternity by mud that hardened into rock, until it was discovered last year by Tufts geology student Richard J. Knecht working with Jacob Benner, a paleontologist who specializes in ichnology, the study of prehistoric animal behavior as told by fossilized tracks and other evidence.

“This is an extremely rare fossil record of insect behavior, not just the fossilized body of an insect,” Benner said in an interview.

“What’s been captured is a moment in time when a flying insect landed with just the perfect amount of pressure in mud possessing just the perfect amount of moisture to capture the imprint — and leave this story behind,” he said.

The North Attleborough fossil should yield critical information not only about the three-inch long insect’s anatomy but about how it moved and behaved. For instance, the impression shows the angle of incline at which the insect landed as well as marks left by the locomotion of its legs.

It’s all the more remarkable when you consider how damn small mayflies are.

Comments

  1. #1 KAS
    October 16, 2008

    It’s even more amazing due to the site. I know Attleboro well, not so clean or open or the center of any research I was aware of.
    KAS

  2. #2 Edward
    October 16, 2008

    I take issue with “probably lived no longer than 24 hours” – it was alive in it’s larval state as well.

    Also, is there any reason to think that mayflies had a peculiarly short adult state back 300+ million years ago, or was that something that evolved later in response to a peculiar environment?

  3. #3 eddie
    October 16, 2008

    I just popped over from neurotopia’s post on the oldest bug of a different kind.
    That’s about a 9,000 yr old TB infection. Questions raised were about whether humans got TB from other animals or vice versa.

    Makes me wonder how TB ancestors got by 300 My ago. How to be infective successfully when (if, thanks Edward) your host only lives a day.

  4. #4 Mike the Mad Biologist
    October 17, 2008

    Edward,

    No idea, but good questions.

  5. #5 mirc
    March 11, 2009

    thanks

  6. #6 azdırıcı
    April 2, 2009

    thanks for all